Coping MethodsThe library of Daraclus’ Order was a cramped, musty, overcrowded thing – a moderately-sized, windowless room crowded with so many shelves that you had to inch down the aisles sideways more often than not. Only the far back corner had been reserved for a small desk and chair should a man wish to carry out his research in the library itself rather than gather his books and scrolls and take them to more a more hospitable location.
It was toward this desk that Sir Algarth now moved, maneuvering gingerly between freestanding stacks of parchment, shelves, and cupboards, one hand pressed against the front of his tunic. His broad shoulders and heavy build, a boon on the battlefield, only encumbered him in this room, so clearly designed for the skinny monks who lived here. Still, he persevered, until he finally came to a stop beside the desk strewn with abandoned scrolls and the spent wax of three days’ worth of candles.
The woman sitting in the chair, a stately lady even with
The Other FourPeople think that the End brings the Horsemen. They are wrong; we have always been here, amongst you, touching your lives with our hands and riding over your work with our steeds’ hooves. We take no true joy in it, or at least no joy as humanity understands; it is simply our nature, our role in the great working of the world, and we carry it out as we were always intended.
If you think about it, you will not be surprised that we have always been present. How many times has a battle been sparked by the fiery breath of War’s steed, or a region conquered by pestilence from the Victor’s poisoned arrows? You did not see them, perhaps, but they were there, inflaming minds against each other and bodies against themselves.
We were not unleashed. We were merely strengthened, for as the World itself began to die, Death grew in power, and as he grew in power, so did his reach, and as his reach grew, so did ours.
Now there is none we have not touched. No might, no privilege can k
No VacanciesPeter felt a headache building steadily behind his eyes. He wanted nothing more than to close them for a few hours – maybe even a few days. Unfortunately, he was on duty as Supervisor and would be for the foreseeable future; his only replacement was currently vacationing in a parallel dimension after pulling a decade-long shift himself.
The source of the headache seemed to lack any sympathy for him or his plight. Amazing how a soul could go from satisfied awe to spitting fury in the time it took to apologize and say, “there is no room in the Inn.”
Perhaps a joke hadn’t been the best initial course of action.
“Ma’am, I’m sorry, but there’s really nothing we can do,” he tried to explain once more, keeping his voice level. “Heaven unexpectedly ran out of housing three days ago. We have construction crews working on it, but demand is, so far, outstripping supply. There’s a waiting list a mile long and it’s gotte
Party TrollsGretta trundled up to the peak of Troll Rock Hill under the silver-blue cover of midnight. At the boulder nestled in the grassy crest like a pebble on a child’s sand-hill, she paused to look around, cat-sharp eyes glinting in the starlight, before she rapped on the stone and whispered a secret word. The great rock immediately rolled sideways just far enough for her to slide through the gap, and settled shut behind her.
After navigating a tight spiral staircase illuminated only by dim emergency lights, Gretta emerged in a room the size of a stadium. Great golden lights in the ceiling shone down on the curving walls and shining floor below. Someone had rigged smaller colored spotlights between the normal fixtures; these occasionally flicked on and off and swept the room as the sound and lights crew fiddled with their equipment on one of the larger balconies.
The entire room was packed with trolls. Large trolls, small trolls, skinny and fat trolls – they stood in clumps varyin
The TestWhen Master Ystrum was announced as this year’s examiner, more than half of the young hopefuls immediately withdrew their names from the lists, citing second thoughts as to how ready they were, how another year of study would do them good, how they’d somehow accidentally overlooked such-and-such class when they’d first started out.
Some called those who refused to back out foolish optimists. This was untrue; there wasn’t an optimist alive who could have survived the deep gloom that settled over the remaining handful when their examiner revealed the nature of the enchantment that would grant a successful wizard’s advancement.
“You may have heard tales of musical enchantments,” he had said, stalking slowly across the stage, sharp grey eyes piercing each student in turn. “Harps that play themselves. Gilded birds that sing more sweetly than any living nightingale. Lullaby boxes that can put anything with ears to sleep in minutes. Parlor tr
LionheartIts first flicker of awareness was of a hot, musty dim place, though at the time it didn’t know what hot, musty, or dim were. It only knew sensation, proximity, and presence.
There were others there – like it, but different. And then others still, not like it at all, and one of them lifted one of its shining kindred from the wall, twirling it, dancing light through the air...
A whistle, a clash, a terrible ringing snap, and one of its kin extinguished.
For the first time, it knew fear.
“No good. Another.”
Another was taken, tested, and duly shattered.
“I thought your work better than this.”
“No – here! My greatest yet. Please, test this one, and know I have no better.”
A hand settled upon it, and it tasted sensations beyond its own newborn fear: boredom, distaste, a vague acknowledgement of its fine form and shining steel. It was turned and spun, examined and shaken, and then suddenly whirled high, twisted, and swung shrieking towar
The Captain and the SerpentAIE!
Oh, it’s you, mate. Blackbeard’s ghost, don’t sneak up on me like that. No, not jumpy – just startled, and you know it. Still got those cat-feet – haven’t changed, have ye?
How long’s it been? Really? I could’a sworn it was five weeks ago, and not a day over. Time flies out on the open sea. Sit – I’ll get us something. How’ve things been here on shore?
Good to know. I should go see them. Ought ta catch up more often.
No, this one’s on me as well. Ye c’n get the next if ye really want.
Hm? Whassat? Speak up, man, I can hardly hear you in this racket. Oh, the ship. Ye saw it, eh? Not a pretty sight, I’ll grant, but a pretty sight better than it could’ve been, mark me words.
Ah, ye wouldn’t believe me if I told ye. Hell’s teeth, I wouldn’t believe me if I hadn’t seen it with me own two eyes. I said two...
All right, one eye – no need tae get picky. It’s
End of the Digital AgeBlackout, Ryan thought at first. It made perfect sense, of course; why else would he wake to a sunlit window and a blank alarm clock?
Things got weird when he tried to call his boss and let him know he’d be late.
His cell refused to turn on, and he could have sworn he’d charged it recently. In fact, he was almost certain that last night it had displayed at least half battery life. In the end, though, the stress of trying to dress and scrape together a breakfast that didn’t require a working microwave and concoct an explanation for his tardiness that wouldn’t get him reprimanded if not fired forced the issue of the dead phone from his mind. He could’ve been wrong, after all; it wasn’t like his memory was that specific.
Then he left the house, one arm still struggling into his jacket sleeve and a piece of bread clamped between his teeth, and stopped short on the doorstep. For a moment, he seriously considered going back in and calling in sick. T